Copyright © 2004 Threshold Publishing Company All Rights Reserved
The Death of a Mad Composer
A Symphony in Five Movements
Movement I: Allegro Moderato
24 August 1855
Feast of St. Bartholemew
Even waking, I was in dream. As you instructed, I did not bang my head further on the door or on the bedstead, but restrained the wildness of my movements, so as not to disturb the delicate newly-understood condition of my injured brain and its attendant hearing. If I listen, I can hear, within, a restless sea of subtle sounds, interrupted periodically by the crushing intrusion of the gong, the explosion of the undisciplined timpani, the unholy bellow of the horns. And then…
Silence. The roaring of the sea. The silence once again. I did not speak of you to Herr Dr. B, dear H, hereafter I will allow these others to call me Eusebius, and respond, or Herr Es, my beloved name, if only to acknowledge his memory and his protracted demise. For he sleeps. Still, he sleeps. (Er schläft, immer noch.)
So begins the dream of Eusebius, allegro moderato, sleeping amid the clamor and intermittent horror of my ending. Here again enters the irrepressible and unquenchable Johannes, destroyer of my little peace. “Herr Dr. B has told me you live again, Eusebius.”
“So he says,” Florestan replies in his best imitation of Eusebius, but too evasively to be convincing. Johannes, insensitive, does not notice. I have to work on that. “Who is this new boy you wish to bring to me - is this supposedly an audition of some kind?”
Johannes frowns his famous frown, tormented by the rude frankness of Florestan’s insights. “I believed,” he began gruffly, “that you would appreciate the abilities of the young virtuoso - you always have done previous to this. And if Eusebius -“
I bit back Florestan’s rude reply.
I could do nothing about the glare, however. Florestan glared at him, causing him to blink behind his glasses. Johannes could never endure Florestan’s cold regard. He said then three brief words through my clenched withholding teeth: “To what end?”
“What other end?” He blinked again, an owl in composer’s feathers.
Florestan’s glare remained. I could feel it freezing my face, a rest between movements: an uncued opening, held by the conductor’s baton. My silence was my greatest weapon. He had the good sense not to drag the poor starving youth back to the madhouse with no further invitation, at least from Herr Dr. B. A great, massive gong shook me to my roots, but I endured it, shuddering.
“What is it? Do you no longer care to hear of my attempts to gain some fame for you?”
“Fame? Fame? That is the accursed very meaning of my name, Johannes. Fame. Renown. I will destroy Fame with every remaining breath in me.” Florestan could no longer hide his scorn then.
“Did you not ask me to try to get your work performed?” Johannes put on his stupid look again.
“I suggested it,” I admitted.
“And so - is that not an end?”
“And so?” I mocked him, and realized that Florestan had me completely, testicles and all.
“He could be the virtuoso you seek…” he trailed off. “He has good ideas on your sonata…”
“And why not Clara? Is she too busy?” Florestan queried him, obliquely. Johannes, under restriction by my guardians not to mention the name, struggled with his desire to respond. At length his gaze fell once again, and that blush of shame passed across his face. Another long pause. Poco a poco. Then, weniger, und wie schneller…
“You know why…” he struggled to say.
“About this Thomas…” I interjected, having regained myself. “He wishes to set eyes on an insane composer.”
“He wishes to discuss your music with you.”
Florestan shook his head. “I have written no music,” he declared.
A noise of exasperation escaped Johannes then. “You are deliberately provoking me.”
“Yes!” Florestan replied sunnily. “What do you expect?”
“Kindness. Friendship. You are my greatest friend. What has become of my friend?” Tears glistened in his myopic eyes. Devoid of a true conscience, filled with nothing but his righteousness and possessiveness, he wept a tear.
“And are you very lonely without him?” Florestan prodded. “Do you miss him terribly?”
“Of course!” Johannes cried, and wept another tear.
“And will you weep at his death?” he persisted.
“Then you had best get started. Eusebius has a long, slow death ahead of him, and it will not be pretty, Johannes.”
“No!” he wept another tear, this one larger than the two previous.
“Yes, Johannes. it is inevitable. Do not worry, you can bring your youth here. I will allow him the kindness due an innocent. Tell me, what is his opinion of your second opus?”
He did not notice himself outmaneuvered. “I have not asked.”
“Then I suggest you do. Would you like my opinion of your second opus?”
Of course he did. “Of course I do…” he replied, and the entire being and body of the Tier Johannes I knew so well, sat up to receive his pets. Surely he couldn’t think I enjoyed his opus 2? Did I dare?
No, his pride, so easy to crush, was too soft a spot to press upon. After all, I had to live with the ill effect of fame too early thrust upon the boy by my too-hasty approval of his Opus 1, which wore thin in retrospect. Was too high praise, rendered too early, ruining him? Certainly my attentions had. For there he sits, ruined, stoked too readily to self-importance by the temptations surrounding him. Perhaps only one temptation, after all. Without me, what could she give him? Without her, what could I give him? The horrid triangle of our mutual love and detestation. How could I turn him away now? What could I say?
And in retrospect - was I so different as a youth? What had I accomplished, when I was his age? Thus the mistake in praising him too early. If one could write that sonata at 20, what could he do at 30? He was already wasting himself in the arms of the love that had spurned me for admiration and that detestable thing, Fame.
“Money!” Florestan shouted. The owl blinked, completely and utterly confused. “My opinion of your second opus. You are going to need money.”
“Are you saying it will not be popular?” he asked, aghast. The word of an editor of a publication, no matter how madly or obliquely presented, was as the oracle of Delphi to the man, who had seen my words transform him from a pauper into a darling in the course of an autumn season. It was not my words that had done it --it was the promise of performances of new music by the redoubtable Miss Wieck; it was the patronage of the Lauded Virtuosa. She had written that article; the more fool the cuckold who had had it printed; for it signaled the beginning of the end of the beginning of the end.
“You should hear me play it -“ he offered, begging me. “Or hear Thomas play it…”
“Cease - Johannes!” I cried, and held my head. A bolt of something had shot through it, and I knew that my audience for the day had ended. I began to tremble bodily, as I had done when I first had headed for the river. Had there been a body of water I would have gone to it, to quench the feverish horror that overtook me then, Hohenheim. I had to remember, this is not a mental thing - if it is not a mental thing then what is it I hear so rushingly? Johannes backed away from me in something like a pain at regarding my pain, and then I ceased entirely.
I woke up some indeterminate time later, though my angel tells me the day has not yet ended. At least, Opus 2 had left me without a trace, and I could not remember his motifs. I rebegan when my eyes opened with a blond wisp of hair teasing my lips as though to demand entrance, and I tasted of it - would she notice? and something in her changed, and I knew she noticed.
And Florestan, oh the wicked Tier I house within me, turned his face to her as she leaned over me and kissed the girl, and I closed my eyes, so that she would think I was dreaming of my Lauded Virtuosa and had caressed her in my unending dream. A torrent of desire was unloosed by this - and I grew ashamed.
No, Florestan, you are no different from him. And you are in no way different from she who cannot bear to be away from a stage with the two and hundred thousand staring hungry eyes of men who do not go to hear what her fingers do, but to imagine what the rest of her would do, for a mere regard of praise, a medal, a gift from Göthe - Did the old goat have her too? Was that her reward for service to the great, a medal?
And why should I not? he rumbled within me. My eyes closed against the wantonness that, unleashed, overcame me in my infirmity. Then, the would-be angel a beast became, and oped her mouth against my own, hungrily, and I was dashed against the shore of despair. Mercifully, then, the sound of the future broke me apart, and I ceased once again, leaving my attendant holding the limp body of one who was more dead than desirous.
I did not wake for a great long period of time. And when I did, it was to utter silence, utter numbness, and Herr Direktor Richard was staring down upon me from a great height. Who himself said nothing, but did not need to - he might as well have been Wieck looming over his son: and I, the unfortunate wretch lying beaten to helplessness on the floor of his drawing room, for all that I was able to move my corpse. This, I could not do, and so I closed my eyes yet again, until the apparition went away, leaving me in the bleakness of morning. I felt gradually the desire to die seep away, to be replaced by its opposite, a horrified fear of it. How could I so desire something and so fear it? Perhaps it was only pain I feared…. the pain of the gong.
“How in heaven’s name,” I said in perfect English, so that only the Herr Direktor could hear, and I would not hurt my angel with my callousness, “Could any man who is human permit some piano player to come in here and attempt to play for a man whose head is breaking apart in pain? And how could any doctor of medicine allow to allow an insensible, despairing patient to be molested by his nurse in his bed? Is this Bedlam?”
I was sorry to do this to my angel, since I loved her a bit too well. But I could not allow Florestan the freedom of the servants, and I would send them from him if he took liberties. Nor could I allow Johannes in his single-minded pursuit of my approval, to bang on the keys of a piano, for my very ears would bleed like the stigmata from the sound of it. He was never truly good at it - he was merely technically competent. He could make a better living, if Florestan did not heckle him. For Opus 2 promised less and less of genius, and more and more of the signature disease of those whom Clara raises to greatness. All, marked by surpassing handsomeness, sexual prowess, and profound insecurity. The illness which has been killing me for a decade.
Of a young girl, or perhaps I saw myself, as a young girl. Sitting at a piano, with a frowning white-haired impresario glaring down at her from a long height, from behind a pair of thick lenses, baton in hand. She, or rather I, sat perfectly relaxed, hands poised, delicately, to begin the contrary motion exercises once again. With a light hand -- leichter leichter leichter, barely touching the balances of the felt beneath the firm yet subtle pressure of the fingers on the keys. This is the dream I had.
I watched the young girl, expression calm and serene, yet concentrating - one day she would have a small triangle of wrinkles there, in fifty years perhaps, to mar the pleasant smoothness of her brow. I look up at the instructor, my God it’s Wieck! The horror of my late youth, the model of what a piano teacher should never become! For what ensues from such tyranny is to cause pianists like her to seek that other kind of pianist - the kind who, seduced by the redolent tone, the quickness of fingers in a clever dance of sensuality, play until they must do something more with the very same fingers, and do… the kind of pianist Johannes is. I was never the mate to such a one as she: I was merely her protector, until her mate arrived… and apparently he has.
It would seem, I spent my late youth defending pianists against their teachers… that was not so long ago, and the remainder of my life has been spent defending myself against their teachers’ vengeance. Who am I to bear the cross of the inhumane determination to bring popularity at all cost? Who was I to dally with the concept of popularity, which more than Johannes’ ham-handedness has made my ears bleed and frozen my mind into this parody of thought?
Hohenheim, what do these dreams mean?
Oh I dreamed, while I lay insensible, and while my angel fled from me…. I dreamed of a woman standing upon a piano, stark naked, her lank and starved body moving in a parody of sexual rhythm, and painted with lurid stripes. Some unholy flashing light pulsing from the beat of an insistent military drum behind, and the howling of some infernal instrument I could not recognize… it seemed at first a string, and then a horn, then again, something betwixt, as though energized by lightning and then flattened into something that resembled more than anything, a woman in labor in the final paroxysm of birth, a rancorous play in sound and light that compressed together an act of solitary self-abuse with childbearing, by the sound of it…
I could not bear the extremity of this vision, of the lurid purple and pink, starved-naked woman, whose breasts contained no flesh, but only the barest hint of feminine shape, and yet around her, there leered a mass of intent, flesh-hungry men whose eyes fixed themselves upon her as she writhed. They swayed with the rhythm of her movement, her face a frozen rictus of invitation. I saw no beauty there, and no soul, and no music. My head throbbed with a new, bright agony, and I was friendless. Utterly friendless. But this was not the most unholy thing, Hohenheim, oh no. For she opened her painted lips and a demonic sound emerged from between her perfect teeth. From her pink tongue, something unintelligibly unclear, and yet, I knew what it was she sang. I am Legion, sang she.
She leapt, then, from the body of the piano onto the stage before her, and as my poem had foretold, a horn grew from its midst, phallic in its implication, and she turned to sit, prim in her nakedness, her backside as wasted as the front, graceful in the manner of a mountain goat. I would say rather -- nimble, as a gymnast is nimble when he leaps across a pit in an Olympian jump…
I ask you - what is the point to this? What has this sexual display to do with music? Having made a promise I intend to keep it, as I will keep track of all of my experience for the future existence. But were that I could understand!
And if only I could find a means to burn these… I shall have to reassure Herr Dr. B that it was entirely my own doing that poor Uschi was compelled to offer me a kiss of farewell when she thought me dead. This should suffice for apology, for I will need her help for the disposal of these documents to their ultimate location.
For what happened next is beyond unholy, and if there is a deeper hell to which they condemn the mad, then the vision I was vouchsafed would send me there, if known… until then, dear H.
Sophie the warden remains on duty, and inspects my pen daily for signs of unnatural usage. She appears convinced that I am inflicting wounds upon myself, for there is blood on my pillow, and blood on my collar as it seeps in stealth from my ear-pan. The dream of the luridly-colored woman haunts me with its echo. The strains of the unholy devil’s instrument pierce my mind, and I cry out, and am unable to sleep for the horror of it.
Days of agony and thrashing. And then, my angel returns to me! Far more distant now, and respectful, but as I lay pretending to sleep I observed her, observing me. This has become a bit of a game, who is observing whom? For she keeps a close watch upon me, one might say a jealous watch, and Florestan is fascinated by the means by which women accommodate themselves to a man’s limitations, his impotences. Not all women have such abilities… none that are demonstrable in any case… and Florestan is chastened by the hidden resources that have disciplined the young and guileless in ways that the older and more deceptive cannot achieve. Perhaps it is this canniness that makes of such ignoble women such good pianists - but I digress.
There is no sign of Johannes. Perhaps he is revising his Opus 2. I went to sleep at length, exhausted, and a part of me kept watch upon the woman who keeps watch upon me, lest the wretched Tiere who sends me letters come, sneak past her, and pay a visit herself. This will not be! It must not be! I shriek, but I say not a word. She understands, my angel. She understands that it is not a woman, nor a wife, nor a lover, nor the mother of my children who seeks constant entrance…. but that which has caused me to flee. I could not again, face the transformation I witnessed…
“What was it,” Herr Dr. Professor Richard asked me, “that caused you to flee from her without a backward look?’ and I stare at him with tortured silent eyes.
“Surely there is nothing more you can worry about damaging your reputation, not with us.” I reply not.
“What is it that you fear she may do or say that will cause you any further extremity than the one you now suffer?” I blink.
If Florestan were awake there would be something he would say. Herr Dr. Professor Richard is undeterred. And seeking, he finds my friend Johannes, and commands a performance from him. They sit for a long interview; and when he leaves it, Johannes’s nose is red from wiping, and he has wept more than a tear. Not for me, surely!
Has he confessed, at length? This, I greatly doubt. And what might he have confessed to? What secrets does he believe have been torn from my unspeaking lips which he must answer, and refashion into an acceptable lie so as to give credence both to my incredulity and his own myth-making abilities? Johannes, I could see, had true potential to become something greater by far in evil than “popular” - he might become “fashionable.” He left the doctor’s office quite fashionably wretched, came directly to me in that wretchedness; and did not pause.
“What outrageous thing have you said to that man?” Johannes demanded, without preamble, as I lay supine on the rack of my bed, my spine bending to the shape of the spring beneath. I am inert, but Florestan has some life yet in him.
“What outrageous thing did he say I said,” he replied, almost indifferently, but with a scintilla of curiosity.
I would dearly love to know what confessions Johannes might make to someone as difficult to fool as Herr Dr. Professor Richard. Professor to Professor, as it were. I remain motionless.
“Could you not even sit up and look at me?” Johannes paces, peers down at my face, upside down, his owl’s exterior even more birdlike today from below.
“Perhaps if you help me,” Florestan replied.
And the owl leans down and puts a lean arm around my shoulders, and attempts to tip me up, and my head falls back, utterly lifeless. I have achieved the Miracle of Catatonia! This should earn me an extra bowl of soup, I would guess. Or at least, some undefined nuzzling by my angel, within the bounds of acceptable taste. Florestan keeps attempting to change my mind about that. And my lips are near enough to his ear for me to whisper to him, “I read your Opus 2.” and he almost dropped me back onto the bed in his alarm.
“You - read it?”
“I have developed a new ability, Johannes, I can read scores.” I tapped my right ear, the one that did not bleed. “Now, as I see them, I can hear them. Isn’t that what you always found utterly lacking in me? That I could not see what I was listening to, but had to listen to it and then write it down? That has all changed, through my devotion to Catatonia. And since you left the completed score with me some time ago, I read it.”
“Sometimes I think you are simply jesting with me to keep me off-balance,” he groused.
Then, Hohenheim, I heard the squeal of a dozen tortured violins screaming slowly through a sleepless night, and once again when I awoke, Johannes had fled or been conducted out, and I sat down to write a review for the Zeitschrift.
“The problem with his quartet is that it is a composition best compared to an unconcluded sexual act. All that banging away, for so little satisfaction.”
How cruel would I be to hurt him in this way? Should I temper my condemnation with the damnation of faint praise, as the American says? Then Johannes, let me praise your quartet thus:
It has such sustained energy… it has such dynamic colour, it has such unfulfilled longing! Had you not yet been with my wife?
Oh Florestan, how many nights, how many sleepless nights have you now dreamed of the sweet, innocent breath of an angel upon your face once again? The uncertain tremolo of her uncomplicated flute, the trill of her piccolo, the sigh of her, her… my metaphor fails here…
And I am left contemplating the march tempo of a forgotten Italian musical drama of the invasion of Italy. Forgotten by me, at least. I know they made them, many of them! I never bothered to hear what they sounded like. They were already perfect, what need had they of me? None whatever! Perhaps, Florestan, they need a cello in Vicenza. You could take a bit of a holiday there, on the seacoast.
Florestan was furious with me, by the way, for the time in which Uschi was away, tending to other, less tidy and less impressive madmen in another room of the asylum. A thousand poisoned thoughts dropped from his lips into my bleeding ears, into the tormented corpse of Eusebius, dear Hohenheim… suicide by fountain pen, I hardly think so! I was found innocent, my pen was returned to me - with new ink, and I wrote new staves, for I sensed the end of the development of this first movement, and the emergence of a Trio.
31 August 1855
A revelation. Herr Professor Doktor Richard has opened one of the Tiere’s letters… the more fool he. And asks me a pointed question, which tells me that asylum is more than simply a refuge for the dying and scorned. It is a place in which those curious creatures, Doktor Professor Direktors, actually may attempt to solve a riddle for themselves, explaining the long performance of Johannes and his stuffy nose, and sudden lengthy absence. Unless he has conquered his conscience at length, and found release in her arms, rather than sweating about it and agonizing somewhere in his deepest conscience.
Johannes fears, and rightly, that with the extraordinary new abilities lent to me by the mystical force of Catatonia (not to mention Neurosis, which is well under construction in the later development of the First Movement), with the sheer skill of my inner eye that I will be able to see his perfidy unfolding. And that every caress he bestows upon the Tiere will somehow be reviewed in the next Kölner Zeitung, on the Kultur page. Known and discussed, at the least.
If he fears this, he never knew me. For that is not me. Even seated before the bar, armed with the indignant testimony of the beaten, cowed Alwin in my hands, did I ever accuse Wieck of the horrendous inhumanity he visited upon his children, in order to claim legal possession of the daughter? Did I wish to! Everything in me wished to. She herself implored me, as did her brother. But I did not! I prayed (after a fashion) for justice in the eyes of reasonable men, knowing that if I was unsuccessful in my suit, Time would do what I could not.
But Johannes has the lack of confidence befitting the eternally insecure, and has no concept of the depths of friendship. My friendship to Johannes does not belong in the Zeitung, and my love for the Unholy One, no matter how unreasonable, is not to be made a sport in the “popular” fashion. For there is to my mind, something more unholy than the sin of adultery, and there are greater crimes than the crimes of passion - the crime of base delight in another’s suffering.
I would die with blood caked on my lips before I told this Herr Professor Doktor what his curiosity so intently wishes to satisfy! Is his brother the editor of some musical review? Do they search my room while Eusebius has ceased, and Florestan can no longer battle for the eye he keeps open on the world, to seek for evidence of new violin concerti somehow sprouting from my neurosis, or some word they can send to the public regarding the disappearance of my more public shade? If I press my lips together, perhaps they will understand the holy pursuit of silence.
“Herr S, you have refused to read all letters from Frau S, and yet she writes to you in the greatest agitation, and I am compelled to read, and reply in your behalf, if you will not yourself read.”
“Then you must do as your conscience compels, Herr Doktor,” Florestan replied politely, but with remnants of the glare he had used with such devastating effect upon Johannes.
Trembling, within. The anger of Florestan is a wonder to behold - can I hold him back for the length of time it will take to divert Herr Doktor from his investigation into my motives?
“I must ask you,” Herr Doktor pontificated. “Is there something you wish to confide to me about Frau S regarding an event which took place in the winter, when you sent for us?”
“Event? The event of her concert in the Mozartsalle, do you mean? I believe that was her performance of that week.”
“Herr S, I am an educated man, and I am also relatively clever. I will admit, however, that you are far more clever than I am, and your memory for events is much more complete. So please, have mercy on me, for I wish to help you. I also wish to help your unfortunate wife, who has pled with you in one letter after another to be allowed to visit you. She also offers up in this latest, quite lengthy letter, a defense of herself and her actions. So I ask you, if she has consumed so much in paper defending herself to you, against what is she defending?”
“Did she not explain that in her letter?” Florestan pointed out.
“It is unclear in the extreme.”
“Perhaps she feels responsible in some way,” Florestan suggested helpfully.
“Is this because she is responsible in some way?” Herr Direktor immediately picked up the scent.
“I did not say that!” Florestan replied. Despite his arrogance and his immorality, Florestan always made a good witness at trial. Of course, if I let him free rein he would add on (to his detriment) something unworthy and disheartening like “are you putting words in my stew?” thus undoing the careful dialectic that had preceded it all; But in this case, as in so many others, I edited him skilfully before publication.
“No, I am aware of that Herr S. However, there is no need to fear my bad opinion, or to fear for her reputation.”
“Why is there no need to fear it? I think there is every reason to fear it!” Florestan declared. “Consider the power of opinions. Do you think anyone truly cares about me?”
“I for one, care a great deal, Herr S. And I do believe that Frau S cares about you more than you are willing to admit.”
“No. While I cannot vouch for your own statement, I can certainly disagree with you regarding her.”
“I think we are off the point,” he argued. Which of course was my point, to get off the point. But I could not point that out to him, lest he once again find the point, and then we would have to start again and I would have to repoint him.
Florestan smiled slightly, attempting to invoke that mystical state called Neurosis. I wondered whether the convulsive fits that I suffered more and more frequently each day, these ennervations that seemed to emerge from the center of my skull, could be part of this new disease I was creating with every shuddering breath. I unfocused my eyes while Herr Professor Doktor Richard gathered himself. He coughed, slightly.
“Do you have the letter?” Florestan broke the subtle pause with a single bassoon carrying the melody.
“Yes, I do,” he said, brightening, and producing it in less time than it takes lightning to strike. And handed it to me. With my eyes blinded to all detail, I looked upon the allegro agitato of the letter he claimed had come from my wife.
Her handwriting was certainly anxious! I observed. I stared at the muddy scrawl and moved my eyes back and forth, allowing no single word - except perhaps for ‘du’ and ‘ich’ to penetrate, and I felt the spirit of Eusebius hurl itself back by force majeur, into my corpse, to grasp what little hope remained within him, and as he did, I dropped the letter onto the floor. No, no, Eusebius, I chided him. She has no protestations of love that could possibly heal what has murdered you. She is your destroyer. She has no brilliant yet soothing explanation that could possibly uncreate your demise. I counseled him thus, even as Herr Doktor Professor Doktor picked the letter up from the floor, its scattered pages strewn like leaves before the wind of Florestan’s scorn.
It was clear that we have now introduced a new element, modulated into F sharp minor, which represent the death throes of Eusebius in the hands of his tormenter. Which of course, is why she wrote the letters. How curious it must be to not receive reply! I thought of the monumental anger she must feel now, at being turned away, those hard hands clenching as they always did, when they squeezed the life from my cringing soul…
Herr Doktor Direktor picked up the letter and made an unsuccessful attempt to place it back into my catatonic hands, my neurotic lips disobeying his silent command to speak, my hysteric eyes refusing to track upon the exterior world, and I could feel his desire to make notes upon my responses.
There is no reason not to tell them it is an act. My scorn is real enough. Let that be the disease they find in me. At length he surrendered to my insensibility and numbness and placed the horrid thing back on the desk beside him. “Herr S,” he said softly. “Are you with me?”
“No, Doktor,” Florestan whispered. “I must be against you.”
He bridled at my poor attempt at humor, for his sympathy, so open, had just been offended by Florestan’s pun. I must be more careful in future not to appear to manipulate those I am manipulating, lest they see through me.
“Herr S, please understand. I am not asking you to violate the privacies of the marital relationship. I only seek to understand, through your own words, and through hers, what has transpired so that I can assist you.”
Florestan kept quite still, working diligently upon unfocusing his eyes so as not to inflict upon Eusebius any stray word of pretense and hope. Hope, the destroyer of my remaining spirit!
He continued on his prattle, in the vacuum I had given him. A good witness will always eventually come to truth if given enough time at the dock. “Herr S, let me speak to you as a man, and as a husband. I do not believe, naively, that all things that transpire between men and women are necessarily the responsibility of the husband; for such a premise is ridiculous. In fact, though it is not fashionable to believe so here, there is a certain increasing acceptance of the notion that much disharmony in marriage is caused by the husband’s refusal to acknowledge the responsibility borne by the wife in creating conflict. If he did so, then he would be far more realistic about matters, and could demand the respect due him in such an arrangement.” He paused for a hemidemiquaver.
“I will tell you what I see in the letter. I see the words of a woman who is used to dictating the terms of her daily affairs, and who has little time to indulge the opinions of others. She is also very wroth with you and portrays you as disobedient and unkind in not acceding to her wishes. And further to this, that you are in some way inflicting injuries upon both her and your children, though she does not specify them. This I find both unkind and inappropriate to say to a man who has sought medical help and has suffered from nearly total collapse. Though we have explained to her, in some great detail, your present condition, she seems insensitive to it. She offers you absolutely no reassurances to ease your mind, but rather a long list of requests which she insists you attend to, the first of which is an audience with her at the first opportunity."
Florestan smiled and nodded. “Then I see you are not entirely ignorant.”
You see, Eusebius? Florestan mocked. Did you expect anything different? Florestan was triumphant, and also, his respect for Herr Doktor Professor had just increased.
“Also…” the Direktor hesitated then, peering at me over his glasses, as though to get a parallax view of the madman, “At a closer questioning of your attendant she admitted to me that you had come here because you had witnessed her adultery, and had attempted to kill yourself for this reason alone. That is the event I wish to hear about.”
Florestan regarded Richard coolly, appraisingly, all thought of his neurosis, fled. All that hard work, and not a single frisson of Catatonia to be found anywhere. In the gathering power of his righteousness, the flutes fell silent. There came in, then, with increasing tempo underscored with contrabasses, the voice of justice. Florestan gestured, eloquently. “There is nothing to say.”
“Do you deny what has been said in your behalf?” I lowered my eyes.
“I do not admit it,” Florestan said, the star witness to the end.
“But you do not deny it.”
“You are not entirely ignorant,” he responded, in the same cool way.
“On the basis of what I know, have learned, and must infer, Herr S , I cannot allow your wife to see you. Do you understand this? Is this a problem for you?”
“I would not see her in any case.”
“I must tell you something which will not please you, since I conclude that you love your children deeply.”
Florestan held up a hand. “Please! Do not.” Eusebius’s anxiety for his children leapt up then, and anguished tears filled my eyes, despite me. “I can do nothing for them, and I cannot prevent her from doing what she will do. I can only hope that Johannes has some little conscience remaining in him and will not allow her to harm them.”
“Then you do believe that she could,” he confirmed, and this time he did take out his pen and made a note upon a pad of paper. “Harm them.”
“You can see why I must continue to visit with Johannes, and how important he is to continuing to do as I request with regard to my wife and my children.”
“I have no problem there, and I trust the man to carry out your wishes,” Richard said, all business now.
“I have made no accusation,” Florestan said once again.
“No, you have not.”
“And I have made no admission!” he declared, this time more insistently.
“No, that you have not.”
“Then we understand one another.”
“I think we do.” At this, our interview was ended. It was all I could do to rise, shakily. The compassion of the man was palpable as he lent me his arm and walked me, weak unto death, back to my rooms, where my angel had rearranged all and put flowers beside my bed. Within them was a note, and upon the note was a declaration of her love. It warmed me to my very Eusebius.
1 September 1855
So began my day, Herr H.
“I do not believe,” the madman said, eyes closed, as an apparition in nurse’s guise slipped silently into the room with the dawn, silent to all ears but his - “that you would want a certain note to be found by Herr Dr. B, or worse, Herr Professor Doktor Richard…” and the guileless deceiver, seduced by Florestan into violating her very oaths and obligations to risk an assignation of whatever kind he was willing to initiate, blushed deeply, and turned at the door to flee.
“What will you do,” she whispered.
“I will put it to the flame if you have a match, and no word of it will come from me,” he reassured her. Thus the noble and ignoble agreed upon a strategy for obtaining the assistance of the now-fallen angel.
Florestan’s theory about women takes on more proofs. However, I maintain that it is not they who collectively constitute the Devil, being corruptible, but rather their own sensitive and accommodating nature that compromises them. And that the true devil at work is myself, the Tempter made flesh, offering his weakness, surly disposition, illness, and vulnerability up to them as an irresistible sweet that they must taste. It could not be my looks; it must be that quality of irreparability that so tempts them to meddle; my indifference to any but the most overt display of feminine aggression. A new theory, to be sure, but one that is far more plausible, though I believe it would apply equally to Johannes and twenty other men of my acquaintance. Though they all share a profession in common. Few are more surly and standoffish than Johannes, even myself. Yet he remains sought-after, for this very surliness and standoffishness. It is only his grueling performance schedule and duties toward my children since his own late youth that have kept him from a continued round of assignations… not to mention the obsessive attentions of she - I repeat myself. About my angel then.
“I will find one, then,” she went away, then, as rapidly as she appeared, and soon returned with a candle and matches, though it was full daylight, she used the excuse that Herr S could not sit and read his scores at his desk because the light was too dim for him at too great a distance from the window. And I held her note, folded discreetly. An obvious question lingered on her lips, but there was nothing to be said.
She stood, as though electrified, while I lighted the candle with steady hands and set the thing aflame and held it until one ashen corner remained in my fingers. I dared not look at her - for any expression whatever in the eye is misconstrued at such times. I then took the first of the letters to you, Hohenheim, which I had readied for this occasion, so that I did not have to shuffle about in some helpless fashion so as to entice the girl with my devil’s attractions, and held up the sheets to the flame, whereupon she gasped with an even greater passion than that which she evinced upon gaining the kiss she had sought from Florestan.
“What are you burning, Herr S ?” she cried.
“That which must be put to flame,” I replied stoically. “There are things which must be written, and more things that must be destroyed, lest those whose curiosity cannot be stifled, satisfy it. This is one of those documents.”
“A letter to your wife?” she persisted, in that way that shows the single focus of her mind.
“Your curiosity does not do you credit,” said Florestan gruffly, enjoying the pleasant warmth of the conflagration for a brief moment prior to hurling the sheaf into the grate. “However, I will tell you this. There are secrets I warned you must be kept, but you have not kept them. Therefore I must take charge of all obliteration of secrets.” I could not look at the pain that passed the girl’s face then; for I did not want to hurt her or make her ashamed of having done only as I had caused her to do - to give Herr Professor Direktor the one tidbit of information he required to do the right thing.
“I am so sorry!” she cried out then, her pain growing a sympathetic pain in my own heart, “but I could not withstand the Direktor’s question - he told me that your very sanity was at stake, and that I should tell him what I know!”
“Yes, I know,” Florestan intoned; trying as well he might to care more about her feelings than he did just then. “I am not blaming you for that. But I cannot have anything further known about me and my family. Not by you, or by anyone. But to ease my mind, it helps me to write things down. If I require from time to time a candle by which to destroy them, can I ask you to use discretion?”
“How could I refuse to answer if once again Herr Direktor asks me what you have confided to me?”
“I have confided nothing to you,” Florestan explained. “And you need not be concerned about what Herr Professor Direktor Doktor asks. If he asks you “what has our poor patient confided to you?” you can reply that he has confided nothing, since I have confided nothing. If he asks you “what has he been doing when you have seen him?” you can say you have seen me reading and sleeping and other such innocuous things. It would only be if he asks “has our patient asked you to provide him with matches and a candle so that he can burn unknown documents of his own authorship” that you would have to be concerned; and he would not think to ask such a thing unless he knew to ask in the first place. Do you understand, Uschi?”
She nodded, her seduction into the devil’s plot now certain.
“Can you do this?”
“Yes!” she replied, chin lifted high in resolution, her earlier embarrassment over her indiscreet love note temporarily fled.
“Then we have an agreement, that I will not mention what was first burned, and you will not mention what was second burned?” This time, I did look at her, and the resolution dissolved into a mixture of panic and shame, which transformed into profound alarm with the scrape of a male heel upon the threshold.
“And what is second burned?” asked Herr Dr. B as he sailed into the room, his question incidental to his breezy manner and Doktorlike precision. Herr Dr. B had an exquisite tailor, and every corner of him squared perfectly in the doorway as he made a polite bowlike greeting at the nurse who looked more like an orphan, newly-arrested by the authorities for stealing bread. She opened her mouth silently as Florestan, without a pause for a flourish, held out his sooty fingers for the doctor’s inspection.
“I believe I have burned myself putting out the candle,” he lied smoothly, proferring his fingers for medical treatment. “The poor girl is having a fit of guilt on my behalf.” B waved her away, dismissing, and took my claw between his own beautifully manicured hands. I felt positively grubby by contrast, and every pore itched at being contrasted by the brightness and cleanliness of B.
“Does it pain you?” he asked, touching the fingers delicately. If I were a virtuoso would he now be weeping? My hands were already ruined for the piano, so they made no difference, but that mattered not to B, every thing he touched must be done so with extreme care, and then disinfected afterward. Certainly touching a madman required disinfectant. Florestan demurred, his deception successful.
B, absorbed utterly in the task of determining my condition of the day, and the depth of my breathing and volume of the horns in my plague-ridden ears, did not notice the grate with the burned remains of the letter. With Richard, it might be different, so I must take better care, and leave the door wide open so as to be certain there are no eavesdroppers. I recited back to myself what B may have heard prior, and if he had any suspicions of me; or of my nurse. That is where Neurosis needed to play a part, and I resolved to be certain of demonstrating it at the earliest opportunity.
“How was your sleep?” he concluded, not having any positive result from all his listening and poking and peering.
“There was no sleep, Herr Doktor.”
“Not good,” he declared. Not good for him, perhaps. But in my sleeplessness, Hohenheim, now that I have burned the first dream, I may now describe the second!
However, I was interrupted early by an unannounced delivery; a letter from Wolf - it is not Wolk, it is Wolf. Herr Direktor did not open it beforehand. And Franz, his first name, Andreas being the second, though he prefers the patronymic “Wolf.” It was only the Tiere’s letters the Direktor felt constrained to inhibit, since I do not appear to fear or repulse anyone else in the world, and so recognizing the name of his former patient, he delivered the letter to me, sealed.
“I believe one of our patients has been moved by your plight,” he commented, as he handed it to me with solemnity. I said nothing, in my new understanding of our arrangement, and took the letter from him with thanks. It was a day of curiosities, for the letter was a compendium of personal confessions, first of his admiration of me, and his attention to all of the recent works he had heard that I had written, and his new interest in the piano, which he had studied as a child, but went off (due to the undesired attentions of a piano teacher, so he had confided to me privately.)
Did I not say this already!! Hohenheim, it is a disease of the fingers! If you had had a piano teacher, I doubt greatly that he had seduced you on the bench. You may have had the only one who did not, for I know not one youth who had not! With the exception of myself. My teacher preferred beatings, and he would not have dared with me; besides the fact that I was a good student, despite my pitifully deficient left hand.
Ah Wieck, I will see you soon in hell, and ask Vergil to rap your knuckles a few times for Alwin’s sake! There is a place in Dante’s circles for the inflictors of such inhumanities on children, they are interred lower than the hoarders and wasters, higher than the pope-holy. I thank God every day that you died before Ludwig was old enough for his mother to force him to play piano under your horrific tutelage! I would not have permitted it! In his newfound discretion, my correspondent did not put to pen anything that might be considered unseemly or compromising, and I left the letter where it could easily be found and read. For no one would be able to read the note hidden in the carefully notated staff at the bottom of the last page, which used the code I had invented and taught him. The phrase said as clearly in the Florestan alphabet what Uschi’s note had said in German. Tempo Legato (Liebe), SEH (Sie Herzens Ewige.) So gave Wolf the motif for the ensuing Trio to complete the First Movement.
But about the second dream! I will make this brief, dear H, lest I fall behind in the burning before my matches are discovered. The second dream can only be a vision of the future existence, for I saw a theater of garguantuan dimension, and in this theater the predominant phallic image of the horn that I had seen in my clavier dream of Babylon the singer was repeated here multiple times, and before the audience there lay a great number of square boxes from which howled the aforementioned unholy shrieking which has for me shattered the domestic peace of the Rheinland with its din.
Betwixt these huge and monstrous boxes there rose a sort of futuric piano, from which ran cords to these boxes, stacked atop one another, and a man all in white, with eyes of the most pellucid blue, almost white, with hair that tumbled from his skull, purest white, whiter than an old man’s - he was a youthful-appearing Ancient of Days, who stood perhaps a cubit taller than me, even without the outrageous white leather riding boots laced all the way up his cadaverous calves - he was certainly a cadaver in appearance, but with the animatedness of any youth, and he stood - did not sit, at this piano, which contained not one but several sets of keys, and I strove to see what type of instrument this was and how a man with a single set of hands could possibly command such an instrument - perhaps there were hidden arms in his costume I did not see, a demon would not be limited to a single pair of arms if he did not wish to be.
He was soon joined on this stage by more cadaverous youths with hair as wild as Beethoven’s, but longer, far longer than even my own today, and facial expressions more suitable to the workhouse , their cheeks pitted with pox scars - or pimples, it was difficult to tell for their extreme youth. And as I watched, cringing as it were, at the sight of hell’s own chamber ensemble - surely orchestras had changed! - the albino raised his spidery claws and descended upon the piano.
A great swelling volume in minor A in multiple octaves emerged - not from the piano itself, which had no echo chamber, but from the boxes attached to it, then refused to resolve its major sevenths, creating a wave of cacophony which flattened me against the wall against which I had been crouching. Below and away, a sea of surging, restless people stood - they did not sit! in an area the size of the Colosseum in Rome, for their ears to be rent by this goblin orchestra of madmen. Surely I could not be sane to witness such bizarre events, Hohenheim, for this could not be music as I know it.
I had complained bitterly in my articles about the fashion of adding choral movements, new theatrical innovations leaking over the Alps from the restless Italians, who believed they could create an entire opera on the basis of the disease of consumption and the hopelessness of poverty - but at the least they kept to their librettos, and traditional instrumentation! As I watched, the albino subsided with his horrendously repetitive motif (DAGE) - knew he no other notes - apparently not… Mozart had exhausted this motif before the birth of this century, was he unaware of this? And Bach before him, created his most famous Fugue upon these same four notes? Did hell have no catalogue of used themes they could draw upon to invent invention?
Then the workhouse youth, clad for the concert in a torn nightshirt and indecently filthy blue canvas trousers, oped his mouth, as the woman had done in my previous dream, setting it before the horn as though to vomit into it, and vomited he did! A clear but untrained tenor mumbling, he repeated over and over (variations on DAGE) until I was bored witless, but for the immense flattening volume… and the sea of youths and girls below howled and surged. Then entered the percussion, which drowned everything with ear-splitting war drums that caused a spasmodic dance to erupt among those listening. An orgy of simple , driving artless rhythm, Dionysian in scope, and artless in the extreme. This vision continued until I could no longer bear it, and my ears, filled to bleeding with the horrific volume, then became muffled, and for a time I was lost in the shrieking. For a time, ceased, though I did not feel I rested.
It is always thus when I cease. Ah - so many nights in youth I did not sleep, but rather sat up, watching the night, and listening to the richness of the singing sky! For days, I would be thus, growing gradually thinner and more attenuated in my listening to what the night held, the sheer clarity of the air, the echo of the mountains - and I wished, if only I could sing.
I would fantasize then, about what it would be like to sing, but when I oped my mouth all that came out was some horrendous bleating. God would not be mocked. It was then that I realized I needed another instrument, because my voice was not it. Even my speaking voice lacked that power, that manliness, that commanded respect of others. Not even so much the musicality that flowed from Felix’s voice, but rather a halting whisper of reluctance.
Perhaps if there is a life beyond, then I would be blessed with a voice, rich in the soprano and full in the tenor - but one cannot have both in the same body, unless one is that most peculiar of creatures, an angel. I was much more religious then, before I was discovered by women, and before I discovered that after one is transported into the sky there is the inevitable tumble into the depths, after which I am utterly friendless and bereft, and all music ceases, and I cease. I prayed, at those times, to a God of music who would bless me with the voice of an angel, and the hands of a virtuoso, neither of which I had. When I discovered women I found that if I listened I could find something for them to play or to sing, but I did not know how to compose it. That is when the frustration at not fulfilling my goal and my promise to my family, threw me into the pit of despair.
Ah, despair, the moments on which the cessation rises! And it was in this despair that I first realized a profound attraction to water, as I took a long energizing hike in Neckargemund below the Schloßbruecke. The way gets more and more narrow there, and the river grows sluggish as it widens in the Neckartal.
My despair was so profound, the sky so oppressive to me… I had just sat for examination and had been criticized for my lack of attention to the proper forms of the pleadings - why did the law have to be so ratiocinate? Why did the Herr Professors have to be so arrogant? I would die from sheer arrogance. Why could I not have a voice, or the hands for piano, or something with which to create escape? Thus were my thoughts increasingly extreme as I stood looking at the Neckar sluice through the channel, and the boats wend their way back into Heidelberg, laden with cordage or corn for the herds or grist for a mill…
I lost all sense of myself then, and threw myself in the river, because that seemed the only thing to do. My grief was obscured by pain, and breathlessness, and cold, but only briefly, for a period of time, I truly ceased. I thought that I would find myself elsewhere, in another realm, but the only other realm I found myself in was the mud-filled bank of the river, with a half-decent suit, ruined, and covered with embarrassment. Should I lie and say that I stumbled? I would not lie. But my dilemma was solved, since no one came to inquire or be concerned. It was private enough that I was able to take off the sodden garments and wring them out, but the damage was done, and I got a horrible fever and was abed for a week.
I write in haste since for some reason the world at large has become aware of me, and my acquaintances and friends seem somehow and suddenly, quite interested in making contact. Herr Direktor has brought another letter, this one entirely in code, from Felix. He and I have known each other’s private notations for years, and during the dark periods when I was bleak and empty, he comforted me in letters, with little patterings of music written especially for me, for he was always, ever, writing.
The voice of Eusebius, as he heard it, was always embedded in the viola part - why he saw me as viola must remain a secret of our hearts… for from before and long after the Tiere claimed me as her property, there was a part of my heart and passion that dwelt with Felix, that unannounced soul that, in the future existence, I pray we will find one another… and that he has not forgotten me. Even in the whirl of that fashionableness that he was plunged into against his will, and which has not touched him, but keeps him apart from me, where he cannot visit nor hold my hand, while I cower in the darkness in my pain.
Ah, if the world were different than it is! If we did not have to maintain the appearances of masks of femininity, of masculinity, and of these stiff roles that musicians and composers so ill-fit! For there is that within me, closer to Eusebius by far than Florestan, which is the female soul, the Dichterin, which yearns. And it is that which I feel closest to when in the presence of that great soul, Felix; and it is for this that I find myself impatient for the future existence, for is it not she who desires to be released from this shabby, wanton corpse? That which is so poorly reflected in the angel that attends me, but is simply its symbol, as Narcissus is enamored of the beauty of the reflection. For she, sometimes I call her Dorothea, is of beauty and grace, where I am gross and dull. Of delicacy. Perhaps her hands are not as delicate as Clara’s but purely as strong, worthy of the name of virtuosity. Her voice, the pure character of angelic light… this is what I sought in all of my lieder to evoke of women, this beauty, this angel, for women are beyond fascination for me, they are a study… and the entire reason for my present internment. For in my zeal to protect that which is beautiful and good, I was ensnared by the evil and horror which has at length claimed and lately chained me! I cannot strike at what is beautiful to subdue what is evil!
What would my children do? What would Johannes do, for if he were forced to choose, he would have no choice but to disavow me, and I would be friendless in an entirely new way.
Ah, the Dichterin
Not friendless but of beauty bright
She calls to me, as I lay waked
As I abhor the night
Sing to me, oh Beauty
Of that sight
That only you, in heaven
And I will kneel before you
Supplicant at altar
In the night…
Oh the poetry I might have writ, had I not been so busy writing dances! What she might become, if I had loved her, this beauty that lies within my breast, instead of her degraded shadow! I weep, considering this, Felix’s empassioned letter crumpled between my fingers.
Contained within, a motif of such sweetness, a melody of such endearment, that I was moved to orchestrate it, and so occupied an entire evening of frantic activity. It drew the Dichterin from within my flesh, from my throbbing heart, and I desired nothing so much as to respond to his plea of beauty with her words, and, God help me for my inadequacies, to sing them. But I could not sing them! Could Dorothea sing them? Somewhere in the depths of my imprisoned soul, Dorothea sought her lover, Felix, and blindly, groped toward his melody. I had a powerful fantasy then, and in that fantasy there was she, young, innocent, and beauty beyond all longing. And there was the willowy and graceful Felix, bending over her to kiss her hand.
Oh Felix, how could you have left me here this way, to die in longing for you and the beauty you had so little time to bring to birth? Oh how I prayed for your return… the only man who seemed to perceive in my piano works the requisite quality of lightness, and in my symphony the worship of beauty.
When he had finished the night of the premier - the audience was polite enough to sit through it though I could sense their reserve, their resistance, particularly in the third movement, he had drawn from his orchestra the requisite fire and contrasting sweetness - the suss, that I had dashed myself upon the rocks of despair to produce… he came to me afterward, of his own accord, and in full view of the orchestra still seated, he took my left hand and raised it to his lips. Uncanny… he had the original score, and knew that I had composed a good part of it with my left hand, because the notes slanted differently. She was my left hand, and the night in the Gewandhaus when Felix kissed my hand. Love was born in me. And died in me when he was struck down in the flower of his career.
After a day and evening of fevered orchestration the memory of his death returned to me, and I wept in bitter tears of horrid longing, and of renewed loss. Was the loss of love, of beauty, so great a burden that I could no longer bear it? I weep still, with the memory of weeping, and the strains of the violin concerto which haunted me daily for a year, the most beautiful violin I had ever heard… oh Felix.
Exhausted with work, with despair, and with weeping, I fell into the bed and without even spending a thought upon it, lost consciousness.
By the lure of madnesses
Conquered by her chill
I wait to see the worst unfold
Until my shade is skilled
Until my shadow
Has my passion, killed
I loved you with the force of bright abandon,
I have worshipped on the altar
Of your lust
So here we lie,
As Ram is flame and Dust
For all I wish is bright and grey,
And all I see, mistrust…
I am the slave
Of she who late
Provokes the madness of my lust.
8 September 1855
And lo! Hohenheim…
Despite his lack of reply, undeterred by my silence, Wolf - another Franz - returns, ostensibly, or so he says - to settle his accounts with Herr Doktor Direktor, and is encouraged to see me by Herr Doktor B himself. Oh your mistake, B, Florestan schemes…
If the love of youths for men is an illness, then what is the love of men for the beauties and pleasures offered them by youths? I meet Wolf, or rather Franz (I am trying to be polite, Florestan interjects) under the watchful eye of Sophie in the garden, and he greets me in the fashion of families… and I do not resist his embrace.
He may easily, if encouraged by the cello motif underscoring my thoughts of the day, decide he is as yet unwell and must come back to Endenich, where the positive effects achieved by the intimacy of the kind and receptive S will calm his nerves. Oh B - you have some small education ahead of you! Florestan is bounding for joy, and had he not already convinced H D D that his head could not bear Johannes’ banging on the piano, then he might have shared the banging of the piano with young Franz - but it is not to be … lento, lento my bleeding ears, my unrelento cello, says Florestan. The boy must have no further encouragement! I rail - but Florestan thinks rather the opposite… there is nothing to be done.
I do not allow Sophie to leave us sit alone, nor to bring wine (which has a general effect of loosening my hold upon Florestan.) I let the boy babble on about my Opus 63, a favorite of his that I had heard him play some parts, when he had practiced in the library, before Eusebius ceased. Sometime after MayDay, when I saw the first drawing made by Felix (the namesake, of course) and his first portrait, and knew he was not mine. For Johannes stared at me out of the infant eyes of his portrait, and I was slain.
Oh Johannes, will your son grow to have such fickle orchestration as you? Such unfulfilled paternity? At least he can say (though not aloud) that his father was not a madman; but he will have none of that inheritance which could save him from her insufferable huge nose.
Opus 63, alas! To hear it played by Felix’s own hands (not the namesake) I find myself fantasizing, briefly - the boy reaches forward over his lemonade and feigns to topple it, and then it does topple! right upon him, and he must remove his shirt to be cleaned straight away, and then in the fashion of gentlemen stoops to dab at the pool of liquid on the stone parquet between my feet and he looks up at me with such abandonment to desire! that my heart stops, long enough for the bow to be drawn, largo, across the bridge of Florestan’s desire.
I do not move. From my point of view, this is no little different from Uschi my nurse, whose hungry beast must eat of whatever food I appear to be to her; and Wolf (excuse me, Franz) whose desire is only to be what he sees - Narcissus, reflected.
But Florestan was mightily flattered, his curse, one might say… and something desperate must ensue.
And desperately, Sophie - another form of angel, whom I cannot say I enjoy, more an angel of vengeance, swooped upon the youth (she knows him, remember!) and took him by the arm lest he fall upon me with all his piano positions extended. The entrance time of the woodwind Sophie was excellent!
Before I had a chance for my face to register what it must (Florestan held sway) with no possibility of explaining or excusing, I merely had to let the muses of Catatonia prevail, and the Trio, accelerando, dropped off to allegretto once again, and Florestan’s heart, that had raced (accelerando) with the flattery of the youth’s passion, subsided by the time the woman was finished herding poor Wolf out of the patio and into the examining room nearby, where he could tidy himself under professional care. His part was now an agitato viola that would resurface again only in my thoughts, for he was removed completely from my sight.
But Florestan would not be quelled - oh no - it was such an event as this which inspired him, oh, far more Presto! to advance upon me with his rage! And advance he did, and I cringed from the monumental passion, colored by frustrated anger! that was Florestan in his arousal! and gradually my smug Catatonia gave way to Neurosis and thence appassionato to trembling, and from trembling, my angel came to me and drew me in, stumbling, to my retreat, to my asylum. Whereupon I sobbed into her breast for several long moments, quite acceptably and with hardly noticeable nuzzling.
Whereupon Herr Doktor B took charge, and presided over my trembling. Then pronounced in his efficient (most excellently tailored) way, that while the air was good, the visit from another neurotic was not necessarily upbuilding for my health. And so my angel catered to me, bringing me soup, and dabbing my forehead, and perhaps from time to time while I pretended to ignore it, playing with my hair… while my body was wracked with pains and protrusions from the disorganization of the composing of my Trio, and I knew I must start again from new inspiration.
And it was not long in coming…
I was never a very athletic person, despite my constitution, and the trembling subsided into a sleep, and from the sleep arose a restless dream in which the hands of my angel caressed my troubled brow (oh, and that she most certainly did!) and then the dream struck, with the force of a slap of Florestan’s hand, who woke me from formless drifting, to his dream with such force that I could not withhold.
For into the room in the midst of dream, came the redoubtable B! But not in his exquisite tailoring, but dressed, or I should say undressed, in a silk gown, unseemly for such a paragon of disinterested, masculine Medicine; and there he is! In the madness of Florestan’s passion, here he has undressed Herr Doktor B and he comes straight for me, in my Supinity, allegro ! At this point the cellos take the melody within the trio, and the contrabass has entered now into intimate harmony. For he is not simply B any longer but Basso, and is he capable of the Profundo necessary to strike that low G? How could I not see it? Most klaviers manufactured today vibrate so unsatisfactorily on lower G, but B is equal to it! My God, what then must the violins do? They must wait is what they must!
But not for long… for the ghost of Eusebius has arisen, and must out. And as he does, my dream dissolves into a mass of once-again sweaty and matted bedclothes as I waken to the realization that my thrashing about has in some way been a metaphor for the orchestra, and that my instruments are all at odds with one another, thus ending the rehearsal for another day. The madman wrote…
strangled by the horns
is there no love for the thing itself
for the Ideal that lives above
The watershed of Scorn?
And when he became sober once again, allowing the moisture of agitation to dry in the cold advance of night, into the warmth of morning and the promise of the sun, the madman was found perched upon the edge of his chair, avoiding the view of that now-hated thing, his bed. He remembered now why he feared it, and the horrors that lay beyond the threshold which is crossed in sleep. That will not happen again soon! he resolved…
And so retrieved the last of the letters of the early Hohenheim series, and put them to flame, in the calm before the calm before the Ruh.
10 September 1855
The days drag, and Johannes has not come, and has not written, and no carriages appear at this particular moment, and I dread that another great light has ceased. For I feel it. Who can it be this time who has fled the earth, leaving me in this hole? To be molested by the ghosts of Florestan’s sordid fantasy, to be mauled by those whose appetites can taste no music, and who can digest no Beauty?
Is this not the point? Is this not the fundamental point to which all our discussion leads? That there is everywhere baseness, and lust, and selfishness - and no moment in which Beauty perches, new-born, upon the perfect point of Light in which she forever dwells? And that we her servants, fall amongst one another, in a fever of passion, not knowing where or how to direct or express it? Here we are left with an array of brasses, basses, bases, tones and broken harmonies? Limbs tangled in a mass of bedclothes, as the composer battles, unconscious, with the distorted demons of his intuition?
Is there no sanctuary from this baseness, even here? Even without the wild, howling predations of the Tiere in my ears? There is other howling, and it comes from within. There are other beasts, and they hunt from beyond…! What are these things, Hohenheim - you made such a theme of making a record of my journey, and here is the record. But if I do not understand it, how will it help me? Or is this something I do not need to understand?
What will this age become, if I am the strongest of my generation? If I am only half as strong as the strongest, and twice as strong as the weakest? Will we all die in this fashion, wasted, our lives and families broken on the wheel of Fashion, eaten as marzipan by those who admire our taste? Something in me abhors this!
If she, the one about whom I am so fixated and fixed, is indeed the greatest of our virtuosas, is there no place for us to ascend to, beyond this? If others knew the baseness that resided within the holy-seeming mask, what horror would they feel - would it be the same as mine? Or is there some sensibility in me, as has been written before, that allows a literary objectivity to emerge despite the subjective tone of my observation?
And thus I ruminate, in a passion of grief and self-disgust. The horrible regrets of Eusebius lie around me, my hope in disarray, reduced to a single larghetto sob. As bright as Florestan’s selfish passions grow, so also grow the introspections of his opposite number, until the two break apart. And there can be no consolation, and I am left, bereft, alone, friendless, and fall from the sky, to which I had ascended, into the abyss.
The cold morning bled onto the floor, and crept toward me. I thought, then, in the pain that waxed cold as a winter moon’s light, of my daughter’s face, as she sat up in her room, waked from a horrid dream of pain. How, if I were she, would I be comforted now? I imagine myself now, Papa, and she has called out to me in her dream, for I am ever lightly resting or even waked, listening for her note. She is often the first violin, my sweet one, the child of my utter romance, she is the incarnation of Romance - how would I comfort Romance, as she sits, appalled by the sound of the future, by the hunting pack of fashion?
I would say to her, Sweetness, beloved child, do you not know God loves you always, and I as well? I would enfold her in the magninamity of my tenderness, and tell her, “It is not pianos that bring music, but the soul within you - so do not worry about pianos. Music is not important, it is only what causes music that is lovely.”
For she had evil dreams of failed performances, and of making mistakes, of breaking her hands, and other such horrors of the childhood of a musical family. Oh what had I brought her to? I came to music as an aspirant to God, I did not come as a soldier in a conquering army of pianists, to found a new generation of trained beasts!
Is that what this woman has done to me? Forced me to breed little performers who will prettily play the Papillons, so that they will be the image of familial perfection so long sought by Wieck and Company? This will not be endured! Beneath the fantasy of the comforting my sweet one, comes once again, my scorn. This pain that will not cease, except for those brief moments in which I am distracted by the events that occur around me, or by the inner music which breaks through ever more briefly… I should have remained at the law, and would not have been disappointed in such a horrible way.
I weep, and they find me weeping. My angel comes to me, and finds me weeping, and must attempt to comfort me in order to comfort her, and I will not be stayed and I shout! and instantly regret it, for the pain is in her now, as if I have thrown it at her - and she flees, and Herr Dr B comes, (decently attired, I might add), rather more cautiously this time
And my sodden eyes glare at him and he says “what disturbs you now Herr S” and I think, “Suss, quietly, Sostenuto” to whatever voice would speak to him - but success! I do not speak, and I am comforted in that I have not entirely gone mad enough to confide in him.
Oh Hohenheim, would I already have broken down if I had not had these things to write to you? Would I already be raving, and throwing accusations that are bound to my imagination, the horrific memory of Wieck and his predations on those innocent children? Is there innocence abroad? Or is all darkness? Has the Unholy One been unleashed once again across the land? I must regain my theme, I must rewrite my Trio. I must - compose.
But I would not sleep - oh no! I will be waked until I collapse, no matter what it takes. I cannot endure what exists beyond that hideous threshold - for I cannot wipe from my mind that lurid phantasm of H D B in - and then out! - of his dressing gown, the irresistible insistence of the contrabass -- The trembling begins again, just recalling it to pen - and I hurl the detested thing down! … but then again, write I must - and hopefully, Johannes will return so that I can have a go at his Opus 2.
12 September 1855
Herr P(iano) Direktor Doktor R(allentando) has summoned me, and my angel leads me to him, as before. And while I follow dutifully along the hallway I remember at length to attempt a visage of Neurosis, but Neurosis has fled, and long since given way to Mania. For I have done little, other than devise a new encoding method for my correspondence, so that I need not continue to burn your letters immediately upon writing, but merely maintain a code that is secret to myself. One day, perhaps, I shall give it out to Johannes or to my son Ludwig so that they will be able to unlock the secret key to my unwritten fifth symphony.
In the midst of doing so I observed that here I sit, S, Es, and a mere one-half tone to the left of me is D(orothea), thence to C(hiariana), beyond is Ha ! (yourself), thence to B (who knows which or how many there may eventually B?); and to the right of me, the merest half a tone is E (usebius) and beyond him is F(lorestan) - this is an uncanny array! Did I pick these names or did they pick mine? I shall have to once again pick the Es-position - perhaps I could be ES in the future existence! I am enamored of the names attributable to notes, and of the notes attributable to places, and the codes in the clefs… this effort occupied an entire day.
Somewhere in the distant rumble of the dreaded timpani (not again! - Florestan cries) is the voice of h piano d d rallentando, before me now, who pleads with me to understand why I must now be attended by another physician by day.
“What what of Ha De Be?” Florestan counters, deliberately, his mind firmly rooted upon the point of the point of the root, ignoring my need to remain in pure Mania to complete the Trio and thus end the movement.
“Unfortunately…” Ha began…then stopped, completely halted. Then began again.
”I hope that despite the extremity of your condition, and your emotional state, you may keep a confidential discussion to yourself. You seem quite able to maintain silence on matters of your choice, and I ask you to keep this to yourself as well - and not to share it with your visitors or the other patients in my care. Can you do this Herr Es?”
Florestan oped his lips, and I shut them. “I am quite good at maintaining silence…” I say philosophically, biting back his more eloquent, yet less cooperative, response.
“I ask you not if you can - I know that you can. But if you will.”
I nod, again, distantly… prudently.
Ha rallentando seems particularly intent today, and I do not impede him. “Please, Herr Es,” he pleads rather redundantly. This is quite important. For a heavy decision is being weighed.”
“Heavy?” (häftig) Ha? Again? How many times must that tone resound? “Is there something amiss, Herr Direktor?”
He lowered his eyes and his shoulders sagged. “I feel I may have brought this on, Herr S, by the way I have arranged for your care. It is clear to me now, that we must account for the fact that you are a well known person, and of a charming and refined personality. If I might characterize you. Yet, at the same time, you are ill. At times, quite ill. There are those, even those among respected medical men, who find it difficult to deal with those who grapple with the illness you face, and remain objective. I am sure you understand this?”
I felt like Solomon in his wisdom then, and my head nodded in time to the rhythm of his prose, even as I structured a variation on the insistently repetitive Ha. Is there no end? There must be contrast, but what could contrast Ha alone? or Ha and De, for Florestan too easily completes them - we must needs then add Eusebius for an unresolved chord! and I draw out his ghost and attempt at last to animate him to complete the Ha and the Be…. and Ha tells me an astonishing thing…
“Herr Doktor B will be leaving us forthwith, Herr Es. And I wish for this not to be made common knowledge.”
“Why is this?” Eusebius gasped, but even as I spoke I knew, or did suspect, through no direct awareness of my own, that it was the doing of Florestan that had convicted B to an oblivion outside of Endenich.
Ha Rallentando Piano looked at me with tired eyes, and rubbed his fingers together. “This is a respectable institution, Herr Es, and I hope that it is evident to you, as one of our most important, if not baffling, patients, and we have done we can to accommodate the stringencies imposed by your illness. We know that you suffer great pain and discomfort, and wish to alleviate it. However, it came to our attention that not all of us bear your ongoing welfare as their first concern - and certain ulterior motives were disclosed. I hope you understand I am making no accusation.”
“I am aware of that Herr Direktor.”
“And I make no admission!” he declared, declaratively, not remembering the so-clear motif from mere days earlier, which I had introduced to him - or rather, that Florestan had so excellently presented while giving testimony.
“Of course not,” I replied, supplying the necessary lines to the libretto.
“Then I think we understand one another,” he completed his portion of the duet perfectly, with decent gnashing of teeth and obvious distress, à la Florestan. And, now that Eusebius was revived for the finale of the first movement to bring the news of his early demise directly to the melody, the violin took a solo in a long, pendant rest.
“Yes, I think we do,” Eusebius replied, softly and compassionately, and everything in him yearned to take the poor soul by the arm, to aid him in executing the heavy deed of dismissing B, who from my impassioned dream was pronounced guilty, and to show Ha the compassion due to one who must enter judgement upon another. But this - I, Eusebius, cannot do. Florestan may do as he likes, yet I must remain at this time, aloof.
But as much as he had not admitted, Ha Rallentando Piano has told me much! and now I surmise from this how much was the doing of the wicked and belligerent Florestan, for I cannot leave this movement unended or in the hands of the unworthy egoist!
Ah the violin,
Makes Beauty out of noisy din!
Where is Johannes? And what did B to put himself on my account, without a position, that I must be approached directly and seized back from the silence of the grave, for the final motif of the opening movement? Am I called to write a new review? I fear I am, for there is a new piece aborning, and it is not Opus 2 (though I had feared it) but something far less and far more. At first, I thought it was the incoherent rumbling of the orchestra practicing my last symphony (to my degradation and horror), but it was not. I was grateful for that, briefly. But then the work took on a more incoherent and bizarre shape - oh my Lord! The brass instruments, the clap of percussion, and the lightning bolt of cymbal! It is the beginning of the first movement of something I have not heard! and I listen. Yes it is. Full of brass and timpani and cymbals, and of dread portent - interesting, and yet, ill-fitted to the modes of the symphony. What is this? For I recognize its hand…
How can this be? What is the theme? How can I divine it within this disorganismus! I must ask Johannes - where is he? I am alone. I call for my angel to come and it is the dour Sophie, who in a moment of confidentiality tells me that she was terribly sorry but she had to tell Herr Direktor about B, and I said
“What about B”
and she says - “What? what? Do you not know?”
I stare at her. “Know what?”
“You do not even remember?”
“Remember what?” I am terrified now. “What am I supposed to remember?”
“Did you not tell Herr Direktor what he did to you?”
“You are maddening, young lady, speak! What are you saying!” Eusebius implores, weeping.
“A doctor should never touch his patients the way he touched you, Herr S, I am sorry if you had not remembered, and I reminded you.”
“What do you mean - touched me?” Eusebius’s heart is racing now with indignation and confusion. What was B supposed to have done when I slept? Did I sleep? Don’t tell me I have left the precinct of the zebra hunter, and entered into a big game preserve? Where are my wits? What has been done to me? I strive to determine whether I have suffered an injury of some kind, but cannot tell, because numbness plagues me down the left of my body.
The confusion and shame on the otherwise hard Saxon features of the girl alarms me beyond all reason, and I seize her shoulder in my strong hand, in desperation - she backs away, I tangle myself once again in my dressing gown and fall onto the floor, and there I lay, looking up at the tilting ceiling and at a small spiderweb, hanging over me, which contains a spinner whose seems to bear a vague resemblance to my wife. She stoops to help me up, and protect my head, and a trickle of blood is loosed from both nose and ear. Then she begins to lament, in the final moments of the movement, in a loud soprano wail - it is a passable voice, actually, but pierces me to the core of my head: hush! pianissimo! but she cannot hear me, and soon, I cannot hear her.
And once again the unholy disorganismus invades my mind, and as Herr Doktor Direktor comes at a full run to rescue me and to dab at the bleeding from my head, a different bleeding begins. It is the bleeding out of all beauty from the form of the Symphony, before this, my first movement, is even complete. Do I dare end on Ha? Or is it too bright for the darkening of all light across the Rheinland? I cannot say… and I slip into a fever. There are hands pressing upon me, I can only feel a vague pressure, for Catatonia has become more than a literary device, it has become a literal, and I could not move if I willed it.
Johannes must tell me what this piece is, for it is both fascinating and poor - perhaps it is his. Perhaps he is working on a symphony - I shall have to ask him. I make a note, in permanent ink upon the blank slate of Eusebius’s memory, of the undeniable motif I capture from this first movement. Before its horns stop bleating, I also make note of the composition of the orchestra and the fact I cannot even hear a violin above the bellow of the horns. What a mess!
I hear people speaking to me now, in muffled tones, but their words are unintelligible and unvoiced, until one commentary breaks through - do you believe he has injured him ? it would not do to examine him more carefully at this point, perhaps when he is in the bath, but be discreet…
By all means, by discreet, I think… and I do not see B again. And the fall of night has broken me into pieces. Little chunks of Eusebius, being observed by a small spider in the corner of the ceiling, and a Saxon matron who is now standing police guard over me.
I sense the softening of her regard, and the relaxing of her mouth… Who would have thought all of that hardness concealed a truly caring nature? One that truly cares about -- me? I would not have guessed, but yet it is stamped on her face as though written - my guardian, only by her ineffectiveness in keeping the predators from my quickly-wasting corpse.
I gradually return to sensation. And realize that confining me all around is some sort of barrier, and I manage to find my right hand to explore these confines and lift it, and - my God - how did I end up in this bed again? and I throw the covers off and leap out, stumbling, and land square in the strong and preservative arms of Sophie, who is as strong as a Greek wrestler by comparison with me, and she sets me aright upon my feet, which I cannot as yet feel. I cast around me to the left and right, wildly, and I realize that my hair has grown longer than a woman’s, and I am rank with sweat and sleep - and that I had slept again! When? What is all this sleeping? I cannot sleep! Sleep is the ally of my enemy! She helps me to sit up, and brace my numb hand against the bedstead, and brings me something in a cup… Something suspicious in a cup.
“What is this?”
“It is tea, Herr S,” she says, and yet there is audible in her voice a lie, and I do not believe it is tea. So I dash it onto the floor, and she frowns.
“Now I shall have to wipe that up,” she says practically. And I say nothing. But she does not leave. She immediately pours before my eyes another cup of tea, and hands it to me in less time than it takes to add a comma to a sentence. Then drops a spare napkin onto the floor and blots up my temper.
“How do I know that is tea?”
“You can taste it.”
“It may have laudanum in it.”
“If it had laudanum in it you would taste it.”
“Not so! I can’t taste anything!” I rail at her. “You apparently do not seem to understand my condition at present, my dear.” I try in vain to be polite, but all of my words sound like the whining of my youngest daughter, when refused to be allowed to play on the ice, and failing to understand the danger of drowning.
She takes the tea and stoops to meet my eyes as I sit abed, trembling - my eyes must be popping out of my head! - and she says “Herr S, you do not need to drink tea, but you probably should drink something. If you needed a medicine I would send for Herr Direktor, and he would tell you what he would prescribe. All I would prescribe is tea. Is that all right with you?” It cost her everything to keep sarcasm from her voice, but from the presence of her restraint of sarcasm, I know that my fear is unfounded, and she is not attempting to sedate me by putting things into the tea. By the end of this quiet battle, I am her obedient patient and sip my own tea, submissive.
But there is a method here, and just as I sense her cooperativeness increase, I say as casually as possible,
“Now what is this about B?”
And now of a moment - our places are reversed, and she is backing away, as though I have poisoned her tea.
“Herr S, it is not for me to say,” she objects.
“Of course it is - you have just said you are not trying to drug my tea. Now say what it is that B has done, so that I may be reassured.”
But she is shaking her head, and she is fleeing - but not so far as to leave me utterly alone and in peace. I reach for my papers, for there is much to record now. I have invented a new clef, movable, so that I can renotate by major thirds, if for some insidious reason Johannes or some other passably clever youth manages to decipher the Florestan alphabet and the Eusebius key system, and can actually read this letter I have encoded to you. I had last week to write in German first, and then translate it with the code onto the staff, but now I have become so fluent in this musical notation that I can transfer it directly from my mind.
Even as impaired as I am at present, all flows sweetly onto the paper, and I would appear at casual glance, to be writing normal music. Ha ha! Perhaps it is a part for that new instrument that howls so demoniacally in my dreams! What shall I call it? I had thought to write it in English, but that was a passing fancy. Instead, in a five-movement symphony I should be able to record an entire year’s worth, and pass it to you fully notated, and passably orchestrated. And it takes up nominally less paper, if I use very very small notation, such as I use for symphonic score, and my pen is suitably trimmed, and does not blot. If I had a pen of a different color then I could circle the blots so you would ignore them, but somehow, I doubt you would need this, however, being the superior man you are.
13 September 1855
Ha Rallentando comes, to my door! I have sat up the night and Sophie has at length collapsed, to be replaced by - what is this? a youth, muscular to a fault, in a crisp white outfit - not quite as crisp or as well tailored as B, but nonetheless a contrast to my grubbiness once again, and Ha greets me, knowing I sit waked, scribbling at the desk. He brings me tea --clearly it is not drugged, for I have not yet lost consciousness over twenty hours, and Herr Direktor knocks on the door - how very polite!
“And how are you today, Herr Es?” he says, not only politely, but with great respect. I am flattered by it, and calmed as I am now, by the hours of writing, and my hands are dotted with ink, as they always are when I am contently at work. This condition itself, comforts me. I compose - ah - myself.
“I am productive today, Herr Direktor.”
“So I see,” he peers in a general way at my desk. “And I understand Sophie attended you during the night. She told me that you were somewhat alarmed upon awakening. Can you explain what alarmed you?” He sat, and reached for the teapot, and in a most civilized manner, poured himself a cup and poised the spout briefly. “Tea?”
I place my hand over the cup. “Please, no. I prefer coffee, or wine.”
“I am afraid either of those may overexcite you, Herr Es.”
“I still prefer coffee, or wine. Wine, preferably.” Ha nods to his new, crisp attendant, and to my utter surprise, the boy immediately goes out, ostensibly to fetch wine. I grow suspicious, and peer at Ha.
“Then wine it shall be.”
“Thank you.” Considering it impolite to return to my composition in his presence, I put the pen aside. The boy comes with a bottle of passably clear Riesling (apparently Merlot does not exist) and two glasses. Ha does not pour himself any wine, but stays with tea.
I wait. Florestan remembers the question, and it hangs in the air, and he is unwilling to respond to it.
I wonder when Ha is going to repeat it, but he sips his tea and seems utterly content.
The pause lasts until someone must applaud or leave the theater. I decide that the time has come for the composer to make an announcement. “This is my new composition.”
“And does it go well?” he asks, politely, and from the way he peers at it, he cannot read music, because he seems content with the view of the nonexistent clefs and the invented key signatures. However if he takes a sample and shows it to W, the conductor of the Bonn Symphonika, then I will be in great trouble, and they may yet slip something into my tea. So I do not put it beneath his nose, and say, demurely, “It is not very good. But it is something to keep me busy.”
Ha nods. He appears to be without suspicion. “So I take it you are thinking clearly then, if you can compose.”
“As clearly as anyone who is plagued with constant pain and paralysis can be - yes.”
“You are still in pain?” He frowns, disappointed by my answer.
“Always in pain, Herr Direktor. Constant pain.”
“Would you like some medicine for pain?”
“Would it help?”
“I do not know. Would you try it?”
“Then it will definitely not help.”
Ah! there! The edge of tension - he has a limit! Florestan rises up and is now poised for the entry of the cello into the harmony beneath the viola’s lead, a half-rest behind.
“No, I do not expect it will.” I ache to pick up the pen again, but do not. Florestan waits for his cue.
“So - you did not sleep?” His tension rises. Despite the ritual of tea drinking and polite swallowing, Herr Direktor grows impatient - his patients await him no doubt.
The sun bleaches the floor, and a touch of warmth enters the room. I am more patient than he. I shake my head. Why should I sleep because others do? I have work to do! shhhhhh Florestan! I cry.
“And the alarm you experienced earlier?”
“So I grow alarmed.” I shrug.
“You had a question for me?” He is definitely tense, and Florestan replies.
“In fact I do. Sophie told me that there was some problem with B.”
“Yes, you and I discussed that. I have dismissed him for a lack of professionalism.”
“Ah - that is what you call it! Lack of professionalism. In what particular area, Herr Direktor?”
“In his manner to his patients.”
“I see. Could you be more specific?”
At this, Ha’s face takes on the character of Sophie’s for a brief moment, before his gentility returns in force to mask it.
“Must I be? I have already requested your discretion.” He glances uneasily at the new Gesund attendant standing some distance beyond.
Florestan decides to risk all for an educated guess and tries a new theme.
“If you refer to his sexual misconduct, you can, of course, rely upon my discretion.”
Ha does not even blink!
My God, what has happened? Have my dreams taken on the character of reality? Is what occurs when I sleep, related to what occurs in actual fact? I have only these posturing, secretive medical people around me, to reflect the mysterious nature of my inward strife.
But the memories of Florestan, so mixed together with my visions, have now truly clouded my mind, and I cannot tell what is truth from what is falsehood, but for the serene stoicism of the man’s face. There must be a theme come clear soon! There must! I staunch my horror at Florestan’s successful questioning, and lower my eyes.
“I would prefer that we consider whether you have determined if we have taken the appropriate action, considering the circumstances. And if you are content to remain with us, at least for the time being.”
I raise the glass of wine, and drink it down in a swallow. Good, that.
“Naturally, Herr Direktor. That is not even at issue.”
He nods, and his expression is quite plainly relieved.
Oh Florestan… despite the depravity of your soul, you serve me well.
“Perhaps,” Florestan takes the melody without hesitation, “I am somewhat more of a challenge than your more mundane clientele, and in that case it may be necessary to make some adjustments.”
“Yes… which reminds me… Joseph will have to mop up the floor this morning. There was some misadventure with a cup of tea?”
“Misadventure, hmmm… No, it was not a misadventure. I cast it on the floor.” Florestan smiled. “I may be insane, but I am no liar, and have no trouble admitting when I have had a temper.”
Ha smiled too, to himself, and for a moment I feared that I had established too much credibility to continue my act with him… that I seemed far too aware to fool him.
Now, what will Sophie tell him? This, I do not yet know. Nor do I know what has happened to Uschi, the young angel.
As though reading my thoughts from the page before him, from the Ohrenklang part (that is my new word for that horrible lute-like howling instrument) that I was in the midst of writing when he came in, he says to me, “I have brought an attendant who is more capable of helping you with your physical needs when you have trouble rising and walking around. I hope you do not mind.”
“Oh is that the reason?” Florestan inquired, his tone oblique. “I thought it was for another reason. To protect yourselves from me, perhaps.”
“Not in the least!” he gasped, indignantly, thus revealing the occult truth.
There was little more of import in my discussion with Ha, and my angel has fled me - will she return? But I learned from him that Johannes is on a concert tour in Österreich and has no time for me, so it is not a personal avoidance.
I have as well, arranged with full approval of Ha, to learn the nature of the new composition being practiced in Bonn. Because I begin to suspect that what is howling in my ears is something that bears greater relation to my actual environment, than it does to the underworlds of fantasy. The Herr Dr. B situation gave me much to consider!
I have to make some actual musical notation to determine this for a fact, but if I describe a motif that exists in an actual score that is being written, then I will know my dreams have the character of reality, and will have proven it to myself. The experiment has begun, and thus the final moment of the Trio is ended.
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The Death of a Mad Composer Index
[ Prelude ]
[ Movement I ]
[ Movement II ]
[ Movement III ]
[ Movement IV ]
[ Movement V ]
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